The female hippo, known as 'Satsuki', died on Saturday due to complications from an injury suffered when the eastern part of Japan was struck by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent powerful aftershocks, according to zoo officials.
Satsuki was in a pool and did not suffer any physical injuries when the initial earthquake struck Japan on March 11, but suffered from shock and stress as a result of the quake, causing the 39-year-old hippopotamus to lose her footing and twist her front left leg on her way back to her habitat cage.
The result of the fall, combined with the emotional stress and shock suffered in the earthquake, caused Satsuki to develop arthritis in the twisted leg. Despite efforts and treatments from veterinarians and zookeepers at the Ueno Zoological Gardens, the hippopotamus was unable fully support her own weight, estimated at 5,000 pounds, causing additional falls and twisting of the leg.
Unable to move as a result of the arthritis in the weakened leg, Satsuki's vital organs stopped functioning, ultimately causing her death on April 16.
Satsuki was the daughter of two former Ueno Zoological Gardens residents, father hippo Dekao and mother hippo Nagoya. Despite the fact that baby hippopotamuses are predominately born underwater, Satsuki was born on the ground in May of 1971.
The Ueno Zoological Gardens, which this year began celebrating the 100th anniversary of having its first hippopotamus, now has only one hippo left, a 27-year-old male named Jiro. A special hippopotamus exhibition is being held at the Tokyo-based zoo through May 8.
The hippopotamus is considered the third largest mammal on the planet, behind whales and elephants. Hippos generally enjoy a lifespan of between 40 to 50 years, though the oldest living hippopotamus in captivity, a hippo named Donna at the Mesker Park Zoo in Evansville, Indiana, is 57 years of age. The oldest known hippo, a female named Tanga, lived to be 61 before passing away in 1995.
Photo Credit: Ueno Zoological Gardens